If there was a time for me to think about how I can contribute to the environment in a sustainable way; it’s NOW! Fortunately, there are so many measures we can take to ensure we do our part for the greater good of the planet. In this week’s post, we take a look at the pros and cons of going vegan especially as a black person.
On many occasions I have thought about going vegan. And I have tried and failed simply because there are a number of factors that render this lifestyle both daunting and difficult. I feel as though it is a process that one must ease themselves into, rather than treating it as a spur of the moment decision.
Being black and growing up with a love for meat, and having been raised in a family without a single person in my family thinking about veganism, I decided to do some reading and research about this process to determine what it means to go vegetarian in my world. These were the pros and cons I documented in my findings:
Weight loss: Veganism and vegetarianism can aid in significant weight loss. This is because the diet consists of foods which aren’t filled with the usual preservatives, empty calories and saturated fats we eat on a daily basis. You might notice the waistband on your jeans becoming more and more loose over time!
Reduced illnesses: Most of the food we eat is packed with a considerable amount of chemicals, fats and MSGs that are meant to preserve food and are not good for us. You even hear stories of genetically modified poultry and vegetables. Going vegetarian or having an organic plant-based diet can lead to reduced cholesterol, lowering chances of consuming carcinogenic (cancer-causing) products and boosting the immune system.
Environmentally sustainable: Plant-based diets provide the best for people and the planet because growing organic and ethically produced goods have less of a carbon-footprint on the planet. I would recommend #MeatFreeMondays to see what I mean. A lot of vegans promote this to encourage people to reduce the consumption of meat.
Less time to prepare: Throw celery, cucumber and baby tomatoes in a bowl with a homemade vinaigrette and you have a meal. A vegan diet can sometimes include the fastest meal prep times ever!
Vitamin supplements: If you fear you might be missing out on protein and B-12, think again! There are supplements that can aid in an added boost of vitamins and minerals available at drug stores such as Clicks and Dischem Pharmacies. Pricing can start anywhere from R60.
Weight loss: In this instance, weight loss can be so severe it begins to physically affect the body’s basic abilities to function correctly, going through a shock especially at the drastic loss of carbs. You will find yourself craving junk food that you usually wouldn’t eat – you may even find yourself losing so much weight that a sudden halt in a vegan or vegetarian diet could lead to gaining the weight lost twice as fast. As mentioned before, preparation and support comes highly recommended.
Loss of vital vitamins: Loss of Vitamin B-12, calcium and a few other vital vitamins can be expected. There are supplements you can take, however, my concern in that regard would be a question of affordability to consistently maintain the lifestyle. Imagine having to pay for expensive organic produce and still having to budget for weekly intake of supplements. Resulting effects include menstrual irregularities and nutritional deficiencies which may lead to regular doctor visits – expect this in the first 6 months or more. Yes, some of these foods may already scientifically proven to contain vitamins but not nearly enough to keep your body going.
Expensive: I know some of us are really trying to put an effort into saving the planet but, in all honesty, veganism is expensive – especially coming from a disadvantaged background. Which is why you find that most vegans are white, the lifestyle is simply too financially demanding for disadvantaged black communities given our history and economic background. It is cheaper for black people to buy eggs and milk than to buy quinoa. Due to this fact, a vegan lifestyle is simply too far-fetched, and if retailers and vegan brands are really interested in saving the planet, then we need to re-look at the affordability of vegan and vegan-friendly foods and products.
Eating out can be difficult: I have only lived in Cape Town, Limpopo and Johannesburg and out of these two cities and one province, I can almost assuredly say that Cape Town is the vegan capital of the country. It would be much more challenging for a vegan to eat out in Johannesburg than it would be in Cape Town.
Meal preps while staying with/visiting family: If I woke up one day and claimed to be vegan, my uncle will probably think I am crazy. For those who can identify with this, starting out can be challenging. Imagine finding yourself visiting family for the week and everyone at the dinner table is having meat while you have leaves for dinner – there would most likely be a considerable gap in understanding. You need to have a steadfast familial support structure because just like giving up a sugar or carb addiction, I find diets hard to adjust to.
I, for one, most certainly know that opting for veganism is not for me. I salute people who decide to take this route of healthier living as it comes with its difficulties as well as extreme discipline and dedication.
Is it worth it? Honestly, I would say no. My budget does not allow me and I do not have the patience for a limited menu whenever going out with friends.
I do enjoy vegan dishes from time to time though? But ultimately I know I will struggle down the line if I were to adopt this lifestyle and all my black friends agree. This does not dismiss the significant rise in black people going vegan but most come from privileged backgrounds- go figure. To that, I say “macon to you!”